Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Matilda' Arrives in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson

Mia Sinclar Jenness is one of three girls starring as Matilda.
When it comes to rebellious, spirited children, "Matilda the Musical" has them in spades.

From the rousing songs and the blinding wattage of the talented kids in the cast, you can't help but want every burdened child to stand up on her desk — or on her bed at home — fist raised, and say, "Hey World! I'm somebody, and I'm amazing!"

The popular musical, with a book by Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Tim Minchin, has seen huge success in London's West End and on Broadway. "Matilda" kicked off its first U.S. tour at the Ahmanson last week, and the musical shows plenty of heart.

Based on the book by Roald Dahl, "Matilda the Musical" brings to life the story of a genius little girl who is dismissed at home — always called "boy" by her car salesman father, Mr. Wormwood — and by her school's headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.

Her only champion is a mousy teacher called Miss Honey (Jennifer Blood), who believes in Matilda while having a hard time believing in herself.

The musical incarnation at the Ahmanson, directed by Matthew Warchus and starring Mia Sinclair Jenness in the title role (she's one of three Matildas in this production), is a great addition to the season, and will surely attract plenty of kids and their parents.

In fact, I brought CC, her friend and her friend's mom to opening night on June 6, and the girls absolutely loved it.

Keep in mind that Dahl wasn't a syrupy writer. In fact, he could be quite harsh. The musical also doesn't pull any punches, as the adults call the kids names you can't imagine using at home.

Cassie Silva and Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood
What tempers the dark moments is the absolute hilarity of the villainous characters. Mrs. Wormwood (Cassie Silva) is lots of fun with her over-the-top ballroom dancing and outrageous disgust at all things literary. Quinn Mattfeld as Mr. Wormwood dives headlong into his performance and is both clever and laughable as the disdainful dad.

And Bryce Ryness as Miss Trunchbull is a showstopper. His character's loathsomeness is especially brilliant because of his absolute dedication to the ridiculousness he's spouting. The overly busty costume (not to mention the Olympic get-up) also helps with the humor.

Bryce Ryness as Miss Trunchbull
That's not to say there aren't dark moments. Parents, keep in mind there are some flashes of light and darkness that happen during a very sad story-within-a-story that's being told. Small children could be frightened by that. (Eight-year-old CC and her friend were not.)

There were some hiccups on opening night, which I hope have been fixed. There was a loud noise that sounded like a broken air conditioning unit that interrupted the music and dialogue a couple of times during the performance. (Although kudos to Jenness, who kept "The Show Must Go On" attitude!) Also, there were a couple of times when then kids could be difficult to understand. We weren't sure if it was the acoustics, the mikes or a mix of that with their very British accents.

Despite that, "Matilda the Musical" is a definite must-see for kids who'd love to revel in a lot of inspiring rebellion.

"Matilda the Musical"
Ahmanson Theatre
May 29-July 12, 2015
Tickets: $45-$120 + $25 Hot Tix

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